|Don't believe everything a terrorist group fighting for its life tells you|
|Monday, 19 January 2009|
Al Jazeera, once seen as a welcome antidote to Western news coverage that always had just a Western perspective on the world, now manage to disappoint time and again. Its strategy on the Sri Lankan conflict appears simple: it gives a call to the LTTE, and then propagates whatever it is told.
We were disappointed to read the article entitled 'Fears grow for Sri Lanka civilians' that was posted on your website on January 14th. It gives a highly misleading picture of the situation.
As you indicate, Al Jazeera correspondents have not been to the areas referred to, and we would strongly urge them to be more cautious in reporting information being fed to them by sources connected with or likely to be pressurised by the LTTE. At a time when the internationally recognised terrorist group is facing the prospect of being wiped out by the Sri Lankan Army, all tactics are being employed in a desperate attempt to stop the offensive. This is not for the benefit of the Vanni people, but to prevent the LTTE losing its ability to strike however and whenever it chooses. Al Jazeera must be careful not to fall into its trap.
You quote individuals who say that thirty people are being killed daily and that this may amount to genocide against the Tamils of the North. This is just ridiculous, as the Government has taken great pains to avoid civilian deaths in what is purely a struggle to deal with the LTTE, while Northern Tamils have many fewer problems in the areas under Government control in which the majority of them live. Indeed, a crucial point that you miss entirely in your article is that the only reason the Tamils of the North are facing any kind of danger is because the LTTE is breaking international law by preventing them from moving away from the conflict zone. Five adults and two children attempting to reach the safety of the Government held areas were shot and killed on January 10th.
These mad statements are given a veneer of respectability when you refer to the sources as aid workers, but you should know that the LTTE has never allowed local groups to operate independently in the areas it controls. This is even less plausible now.
The sole quote you carry from an international organisation, the ICRC, says only that food convoys have not entered the Vanni in the last five days. This is obviously sleight of hand on your part. Food convoys are supposed to go at intervals, not all the time, with stocks being maintained at the other end. The WFP sent a convoy of 57 trucks to deliver 811 MT of food on January 9th. It said in a press release that this was enough to supply the people in need of assistance for a week. The Government has also sent food convoys, so it is not clear how you have reached the conclusion that there is a problem. In fact, another 61 lorries have been despatched since you made this odd claim.
The ICRC also draws attention to the need for healthcare, noting that several hospitals have been evacuated due to the fighting. You fail to mention that it is the Government that has provided doctors, nurses, medicines and funds to maintain these services throughout the conflict, which have been given free to all including LTTE cadres. Hospitals have been moved, with the assistance of Government employees, to areas in which the Vanni people are now staying. Although standards are obviously not up to those in the rest of the country, which you should note are highly praised by the United Nations, patients who require special treatment are transported by ambulance to Government hospitals elsewhere.
Your lack of attention to facts is also demonstrated in the imaginative claim that there are 350,000 civilians trapped in the Vanni. The United Nations has adopted figures provided by local officials, who we know from experience in areas that were under LTTE control in the East are under pressure to inflate the numbers, which amounted to 230,000 at the last count. Even if we assume that the entire population of the two districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu has moved with the LTTE, the 2001 Census indicated that there were no more than 120,000 people in each. Although the Eastern LTTE cadres have returned since then, movement has generally been out towards the safety of Government controlled areas.Al Jazeera was once eagerly anticipated as a welcome antidote to Western news coverage that always got the wrong end of any stick to be found in the rest of the world, but articles such as this on the Sri Lankan conflict demonstrate a worryingly similar trend. We hope that more care will be taken in future.
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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